Study Finds Slow Airport Security Has An Upside

TSA agent
Mobile Edge Laptop Cases, Flickr

Going through airport security is a lesson in patience for even the most Zen traveler, but the good news is that those frustratingly slow security screenings might actually be more effective. According to a new study, TSA screeners who take their time are more successful at identifying targets like weapons or restricted items.

The study pitted TSA agents against Ivy League college students to test how well each group conducted a visual search. The experiment was simple and tested natural search skills (searching for a particular shape on a computer screen) – so the TSA screeners had no advantage over the students. The results showed that the college students were faster at completing the tasks but the TSA agents were more accurate.Stephen Mitroff, the psychologist heading up the research, told NBC news that the TSA screeners were slower because they were more methodical, which is ultimately what led to better results. “Our interpretation is those who are most experienced have found their strategy and use it the same way over and over – whether you spiral through the bag or are zig-zagging left and right. If you’re always doing the strategy and always doing it consistently, you’re freeing up your cognitive resources – your other abilities to try to identify targets,” he said.

The research is part of a larger study being conducted by the Department of Homeland Security.

Better Search, Blazing Fast, Tested

fast car searchTravel search engines commonly claim to produce the lowest prices or best selection. Some say they have the most accurate reviews or are quick at what they do. When we received a press release from hotel-finder Room 77 claiming “blazing fast” results, we put them to the test.

On our 25.5 Mbps DSL line, it took just 3.5 seconds for Room 77 to deliver 573 results for an overnight stay in a hotel in Miami later this month. That did seem fast so we compared it to a couple other hotel-finding sites. Hotels.com brought 437 in 3.6 seconds and Kayak returned 354 in 3.8 seconds – about the same speed-wise. But in addition to more results, Room77 delivered lower prices and included hostels in the search.

“Room 77 searches other sites for you and compares the prices right in the search results,” Kevin Fliess, Room 77’s general manager and VP of product development told Gadling. He added, “In addition to a fast and comprehensive search, we also allow travelers to earn loyalty points or pay at the hotel.”

Going a step further, Room 77 has their Room Concierge, a free service when booking a 4-star or above hotel that helps travelers identify a hotel room matching their preferences. Buyers specify what type of room attribute is most important – size, noise level or view – and Room Concierge staff goes to work finding just that room for buyers.

On Room 77 and other travel-related sites, it’s all about providing detailed, intuitive results that match what buyers want: a search process that is quick and easy.

Another site that delivers rich content fast in a very “we’re not wasting your time” sort of way is a new feature from Nerd Wallet that searches and compares airline fees.

Nerd Wallet, best known for finding and comparing credit card offers, says they “scour the financial universe to bring you any and every bank and credit union we can find, along with our own unbiased take on what various rewards programs or deposit accounts are actually worth,” on their website.

Now, Nerd Wallet’s Search and Compare Airline Fee finder, gathers information for pretty much all domestic airlines quickly and efficiently. Users can compare, say, the baggage fees of all airlines or find out all the details about one airline in a speedy and easy search.

The results at Nerd Wallet also are intuitive and consistent with predictions made earlier this year; new technologies may create changes for our future travel planning methods.

“Today, we stand at the forefront of a technological evolution in travel that we refer to as Online Travel 3.0, which recognizes the power shift from suppliers to retailers and to end consumers,” Stephane Durand, Director, Online & Leisure at Amadeus, a major provider of advanced technology solutions for the global travel and tourism industry told Gadling earlier this year.

That was just back in February when Gadling covered how travel search was becoming more personal, focused and nosy.

Then, we told of a global study that identified the online shopping behavior and future motivations of trend-setting travelers: micro-targeting information to specific consumers offering products that are actually relevant for the buyer.

Today, sites like Room 77 and Nerd Wallet’s Airline Fee Finder are delivering on that promise.

Up next, look for sites that learn from our online behavior over time and become interconnected, sharing information about us among each other.

Broadway Hotel and Hostel in New York

[Flickr photo via Viernest]

Whole Foods To Ban Sale Of Unsustainable Seafood: The Global Impact

sustainable seafoodIn a landmark move, Whole Foods has just announced that starting on April 22 — Earth Day — it will no longer sell seafood from depleted or otherwise unsustainable fisheries, or species harvested with ecologically damaging methods such as trawling. The industry ratings for these species are determined by the Blue Ocean Institute and California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium, which produces a popular “Seafood Watch Recommendations” pocket guide and phone app for shoppers. Say bye-bye to Atlantic halibut, skate, octopus and sole.

It’s a bold move for the world’s largest, most powerful green grocery chain to defer customer demand for better buying practices, but according to Whole Foods’ seafood quality standards coordinator Carrie Brownstein via an AP article, “In the long term, what we’re really looking to do is help reverse trends of overfishing and by-catch, so that really we can move the industry as a whole toward greater sustainability.”

So how does what you eat here at home have a global impact? Depletion of any fishery always has a negative effect on the food chain because of a ripple effect. Foreign fisheries may also employ unsound fishing methods that increase by-catch (think dolphins and other aquatic species, albatross, etc.). You may love Chilean sea bass (it’s actually Patagonian toothfish) but it has long been a fishery on the verge of collapse and by purchasing it at the store or ordering it at a restaurant, you create demand for that product. Once a species is extinct, it can seriously throw a marine ecosystem out of whack. Plus, you know, extinction kind of sucks.

It’s harder for world travelers to be on top of what’s sustainable and what’s not, especially if, like me, you love street food. In developing nations, especially countries with a coastline, fishing is usually a key part of the local economy. But saving our rapidly depleting oceans trumps putting a few pennies in local pockets: they’re not looking at the big picture, which is the more seafood we consume, the less there is to sell.

Order something besides seafood unless you’re positive it’s caught in a non-environmentally degrading way, from a healthy fishery. Go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Recommendations site for a global guide to what’s sustainable and what’s not. It offers alternatives, so odds are, you can travel and have your lobster dinner, too.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Eneas]

Google acquires ITA: the search for bargain airline deals is about to get even easier

You’re an avid traveler, right? Sure, why else would you be reading this? Chances are that you’ve spent some quality time at either Kayak, Airfare Watchdog, Bing Travel or one of the many other niche ticketing sites in search of deals over the past few months. To that end, you’ve probably spent next to no time at Google searching for the same thing. But the obvious question is this: “why not?”

That’s a question that has obviously been bugging Google, which is a master of all things search in most every other category. For whatever reason, Google has allowed a number of other, typically smaller competing sites to grow their user base without any interference. But if Google’s so great at finding images via keyword, remedies to your strange medical conditions or more details on that vehicle you’ve been meaning to investigate, why can’t it do the same for travel?

Enter ITA Software, a Cambridge-based software firm that was born from an idea within the minds of a few bright computer scientists from MIT. Currently, the outfit is home to a highly advanced QPX software tool for organizing flight information, which is used by leading airlines and travel distributors worldwide including Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Bing, Continental Airlines, Hotwire, Kayak, Orbitz, Southwest Airlines, TripAdvisor, United Airlines, US Airways, Virgin Atlantic Airways and others. Moreover, it’s now offering a completely new airline passenger reservation system to improve the customer experience. And as of today, the company is an integral part of Google…
Google has ponied up $700 million in order to acquire ITA and turn the tables in the online ticket search business, but what’s most interesting here is that there’s a good chance the resulting search engine will not only do its own thing, but also bring in results from your existing favorites (Kayak, for instance). In a way, it’ll be the ultimate airline ticket search engine, pulling information from every nook and cranny available and organizing it in a way that the Average Joe or Jane can fully understand and take action on.

Once the acquisition is complete, Google aims to “make it easier for you to search for flights, compare flight options and prices and get you quickly to a site where you can buy your ticket.” It’s important to note that much like Kayak, Google won’t actually be selling you an airline ticket directly; it’ll simply be providing the access to buy one. Still, this all sounds like a huge win for consumers who are tired of crawling three different airline search engines to get a somewhat comprehensive look at their options, and we personally can’t wait for this marriage to officially bear fruit.

[Source: Google]